18 Incredible Things to do in Socotra

Dragon Blood trees in Socotra

So you want to travel to Socotra Island (sometimes spelled Soqotra)? That’s not surprising considering the insane amount of natural beauty and biodiversity. This largely undisturbed island getaway is the absolute perfect destination for a nature escape.

Over 1/3 of all the plant species in Socotra can’t be found anywhere else on earth! Yes, you read that right, over 1/3 of the plant species are endemic to Socotra only. There are a lot of places with unique biodiversity, but Socotra has plants that are so unique that it’s been described as a “tropical alien planet.” Now tell me, who wouldn’t want to visit a tropical alien planet?

Why Don’t You Hear More about Socotra Tourism? And What Makes Socotra Travel Unique?

You may wonder why you don’t hear more about this alien tropical paradise?

Socotra is an island that is located just south of the Arabian Peninsula and east of the Horn of Africa (technically there is also an archipelago named Socotra, but most of the attractions are on the main Socotra island).

The reason you don’t hear more about Socotra travel is because visitors are currently discouraged from going. Socotra is part of Yemen, and Yemen has been involved in a fierce civil war since 2014. Supposedly the war is winding down and stability is hopefully on the horizon in the near future.

How to Get to Socotra Island

Even with the civil war going on, if you are wondering how to get to Socotra island there are now flights available that don’t stop in mainland Yemen. Adventurous travelers are going there, though most people are waiting for more peaceful times.

To travel to Socotra island you can book flights from Cairo Egypt, Dubai or Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, or Amman Jordan.

Visiting Socotra Island

The incredible amount of biodiversity make visiting Socotra island one of the most appealing nature reserves on earth and justify it being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Before the war the world was just starting to get out about the incredible allure of the Socotra.

Pristine beaches you can camp on? Dragon blood trees? That’s just the start. Are you dying to plan a trip there as soon as possible just like me? If not, you will be after you read on and see the best things to do in Socotra.

What to Expect As a Tourist In Socotra

This pristine island getaway is largely undeveloped. There are only 40,000 locals living there, and they are only beginning to get acquainted with a lot of tourists.

Given its undeveloped nature, your trip there is most likely to be described as an “off-the-grid” eco-tourism excursion. You will not finds rows and rows of luxury hotels. While there are a few hotels, the most common experience is to camp along one of the beaches.

There are not a ton of public transportation options (only 2 busses). Many people get around by walking, by camel, or by hiring a car with a driver. You also won’t find a ton of adventure tours, but rather opportunities to hike and explore the one of a kind natural delights.

Best Things to do in Socotra

Alright – so what kinds of unique things are there to do and see there? Read on to discover what you need to see when visiting Socotra Island.

Examine a Socotra Tree

Hear me ouT! Even if you aren’t a dendrophile (I learned that meant tree lover when writing this post) there is something about the trees of Socotra that will make you feel like one. The Socotra trees are so unique they feel like they are from another planet. Sound crazy? Keep reading and you will see.

Socotra Dragons Blood Trees

The Socotra dragon trees are one of the main attractions on the island. These umbrella shaped trees get their name because if damaged the bark will slowly ooze out blood red sap! Want to see them? This is the only place that you can see bloody sap and dragon blood wood.

Legends of the Socotra Dragon Tree

Ancient legends said that this sap really was the blood of dragons. Even if not from dragons, the trees themselves make you feel like you could encounter a dragon or at least a dinosaur.

Bottle Tree Socotra

Bottle Tree Socotra in bloom
Bottle tree in bloom

The Dragon Tree Socotra offers isn’t the only unique species! Another Socotra tree that is endemic to the island is the Bottle Tree. This funky looking tree features a bulbous trunk and and “leafy crown.” Unfortunately this super unique tree is endangered. Its unique properties allow it to be cut down and used as animal feed in times of need, but this also has contributed to its scarcity.

Socotra Cucumber Tree

The Socotra Bottle Tree is actually the same tree as the Socotra Cucumber tree, but different from the Dragon Blood wood or a Dragon Tree Socotra offers. I’ve seen people confuse them thinking they are two different species. There is a lot of variability in what the trees can look like as well. The scientific name of this tree is Dendrosicyos socotranus, which means cucumber tree of Socotra.

Cucumber tree Dendrosicyos socotranus in Socotra island Yemen
Cucumber tree, Dendrosicyos socotranus – endemic of Socotra Island

Frankincense Tree

There are 9 species of Frankincense trees on the island of Socotra. The sap of these unique trees are what the precious gift given to the baby Jesus was derived from.

Boswellia tree Frankincense tree in Socotra.
Boswellia tree (Frankincense tree).

Explore Detwah Lagoon

The Socotra Cucumber tree, also known as Dendrosicyos socotranus, is endemic of Socotra Island.

Detwah lagoon on Socotra island
Detwah lagoon

Detwah Lagoon is one of the most beautiful spots on the island. It is located on the northwest coast, and isn’t just famous for the vivid blue water and pure white sand. It is also one of the best places to observe the birds that are native t Socotra.

I am not sure there is anywhere else in the world where you can have water so blue and sand dunes so white.

White Sand Dunes

White sand dunes in Socotra Yemen
White sand dunes Socotra Yemen
White sand dunes Socotra Yemen

Want to experience unmolested san dunes with perfect views of the oceans? There are miles worth of sand dunes that can rise to over 600 feet above the Indian Ocean.

Drive through Dixam Plateau

Dragon blood trees at Dixam plateau Socotra Island
Dragon blood trees at Dixam plateau Socotra Island

This plateau is often used as one of the best lookout points to view the famous Dragon Blood Trees. It is located in the center of the island and is supposedly easy to access via good roads (not a guarantee on the rest of the island).

Visit the town of Hadibu

Town of Hadibu in Socotra Yemen
Town of Hadibu in Socotra Yemen

This booming metropolis is the biggest city on the island. When I say booming metropolis I mean the total population is actually only about 10,000 people. Regardless, this is one of the places where you will find a few restaurants and shops for supplies.

The airport is only about 7 miles from the town.

Qalansiyah Beach

Qalansiyah Beach Socotra Island Yemen
Qalansiyah Beach Socotra Island Yemen

This beach lagoon is another site where you can see the brilliant blue ocean and piercing white sand. You can visit the nearby town of Qalansiyah and then access this beach by boat or hiking in yourself. It is surrounded by limestone mountains as well.

Wadi Dirhur Canyon

Want to swim in a mountain stream? Crystal clear mountain waters make this possible at Dirhur Canyon. Or how about explore the Socotra island trees the way? The gorge is a perfect place for backpackers to explore and camp nearby.

Arher Beach

Arher Beach Socotra Yemen
Arcer Beach

Note, the name of this beach is Arher, and not Archer beach. You will see it mistakenly labeled incorrectly. This is another perfect place to camp as the mountain streams meet the beautiful ocean. Arher beach is located on the far east end of the island.

Fishing Villages in Socotra

There are a number of fishing villages in Socotra that are truly one of a kind. Make sure you make time to explore the villages that line the shores reaching the Indian Ocean. Locals still fish in a much more simple manner than you would expect.

Ghost Crabs

It will be very difficult for you to find the famous Socotra Ghost Crab. They get their name because they only come out at night. They stay hidden deep in the sand to avoid the scorching heat of the day, and also to avoid potential predators that would feed on them.

They are not easy to find as they can burrow down as deep as four feet, though you can find evidence of them coming up by the piles of sand they leave.

Hoq cave 

Hoq cave. Yemen, Socotra island
Hoq Cave

Bet you didn’t think you could explore underground caves on this island paradise? There are miles of caves on the island, with Hoq being the most well known. These caves are known for being much less developed than other cave expeditions around the world.

When in the cave, keep an eye out for the whip scorpions! The scorpions are a real concern, unlike the dragons blood trees Socotra offers.

The mountain lake of Homhil

The mountain lake of Homhil on the island of Socotra Yemen.
The mountain lake of Homhil on the island of Socotra Yemen.

Want to hike through Dragon Blood tree forests to an practically undiscovered mountain lake? The journey to Lake Homhil is famous. The entire Homhil plateau offers unrivaled views of the island as well.

Shoab beach

Beautiful Ras Shuab beach in Socotra
Beautiful Ras Shuab beach in Socotra, Unesco world heritage site since 2008 for its biodiversity

This is another beach for the adventurer. It is easiest to access by boat, but you can hike in. You are very likely to have it nearly to yourself if you get there. Adventurers will often camp along its shores.

Zahaq sand dune in Socotra island

The Zahaq sand dunes are known as some of the biggest on the island. You can climb up these enormous dunes for more perfect views of the island.

Wadi Difarhou Natural Pool

This natural pool is another unreal attraction that is unique to Socotra. Bring your swimsuit so that you can take a dip to avoid the hot sun!

Visit a Mosque

Mosque In Socotra Island
The mosque in Socotra island, Indian ocean, Yemen

So, are you convinced that you should visit Socotra yet? Whether it’s the Socotra island trees, the unmolested caves, or a beach you can have to yourself, put Socotra on the list!

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